What is the biggest killer in the United States? Heart disease. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), almost a million people have a heart attack each year, and over six hundred thousand people die annually from various types of heart disease. There have been numerous initiatives to raise awareness of heart attack symptoms in the population to make sure that people get medical attention when they are having a heart attack.
Nevertheless, doctors do at times fail to diagnose heart attacks, as happened to a Washington D.C. woman named Rachel Doucette. Rachel was bringing her children to school when her heart attack began, and even though she was brought to the hospital quickly, her heart attack was not properly diagnosed until 24 hours later.
A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, or MI, is a blockage of the blood vessels that lead to the heart. This blockage deprives the heart of blood and the oxygen it carries, causing the heart tissue to die. A heart attack can be caused by the slow accumulation of a hard substance called plaque in the blood vessels, until the plaque completely obstructs the blood flow. Alternatively, it can be caused by a blood clot that forms when blood components known as platelets stick to tears in the plaque.
Diagnosing a heart attack is often, but not always, a clear procedure. Many of its symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, heavy sweating, lightheadedness and vomiting are shared by many other illnesses. There are varieties of tests the emergency room may perform in order to determine if you are having a heart attack.
Overall, attending physicians miss only a small percentage of heart attacks, but the consequences of the missed diagnoses can be fatal. The longer the heart attack continues untreated, the more heart tissue will die. Prompt diagnosis is thus of the utmost importance. It is crucial that patients and their families act as their own advocate to make sure that a diagnosis is not missed.
In our medical malpractice and negligence practice, we have seen too many misdiagnosed heart attacks. If you have suffered a heart attack and there may have been a delay in diagnosing you properly, contact us for a free consultation to see if we can help you at this difficult time.
Dr. Michael M. Wilson is an attorney and a physician who earned his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his legal and medical degrees from Georgetown University. He has focused in the area of medical malpractice for more than three decades and secured more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients throughout the country. He is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and New York as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is listed in America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.